The halls and lunchroom of Hudson’s Bay High School were bustling Wednesday, filled with eager kids and smiling adults.
Don’t fret over your calendar. You’ve still got about two weeks before students are back in school. But Vancouver Public Schools is working to make sure that when that day comes, students “Go Ready!”
The school district hosted its fifth annual back-to-school fair, a blowout event attracting thousands of families. The “Go Ready!” event mixes a resource fair with a medical clinic and adds a dash of shopping center to round out the experience. Students picked out clothes, got a haircut, caught up on their immunizations and had their ears, teeth and vision checked — all for free. Parents perused booths staffed by nonprofit organizations such as Lifeline Connections, Partners in Careers and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, learning about social services, job opportunities and after-school programs.
And because it’s still summer, at least for a little longer, there were free hot dogs and ice cream.
Jan Redding, the district’s director of public engagement, said it’s a break from the chaos of back-to-school season for families, and a reliable place to find most necessities for the season.
“They’re coming for the basic needs for their kids,” Redding said as hundreds of families milled around. “It takes a lot of anxiety out of being ready for the first day.”
Take Ashley Tarkong, for example. The Vancouver mom took a brief respite from her 7-year-old son’s high energy to play a few rounds of a game on her phone. Her son, Kannon Davis, who is going into second grade, played nearby as the pair waited for him to get a haircut. Just a little off the top, said Tarkong, running her fingers through her son’s curls.
“We want to know what’s going on, what opportunities are out there,” she said, adding that this time of year “is kind of crazy.”
Kannon announced “break time” as his favorite part of the school day to a laugh from his mom.
“He’s really a good student,” she said.
In the school’s gym, meanwhile, families sorted through donated clothes to pick out outfits, leaving with sacks full of shirts, pants and warm winter coats. The district gave out 850 bags of clothes at last year’s event.
“I found a green dress!” announced Aurora Nowak, 6. She rummaged through a bag full of clothing to hold up the forest green, velvet dress. Is it her favorite? Yes, she signaled with a nod. Is she going to wear it on the first day of school? Again, she nodded and hugged it close to her. That’s a definite yes.
Aurora was accompanied by her aunt, Jessica Simon, who laughed at her niece’s antics. Like Tarkong, Simon noted what a hectic time of year this is.
“This makes it a lot easier,” Simon said.
Back in the halls, Redding was rushing from location to location, helping blue-aproned volunteers and greeting families. The controlled chaos of the day has become a summer tradition for her, but it’s worth it to hear from dozens of families who tell her, “thank you.”
“It’s such a good feeling, how we’re helping,” she said. “It’s a very fulfilling day.”